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Reform of the family law system

You might have seen in the news recently that the Family Law system is in for an overhaul.

On 30 January 2023 the Federal Attorney General released draft legislation to reform the Family Law Act. The proposed amendments relate to how parenting matters are determined by the Court.

For many years there have been calls to reform the Family Law Act due to the confusing and potentially misused concept of “presumption of equal shared parental responsibility”. The proposed legislation seeks to remove that language from the Act.

The proposed legislation also seeks to ‘simplify’ the process for how a Court determines what is in a child’s best interest; that is, how the Court determines the parenting arrangements.  At present there are two primary considerations (the benefit to a child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, and the need to protect them from family violence) and fourteen secondary considerations.  It is proposed to replace these with six considerations that largely encompass the existing considerations – but does move the ‘benefit of a meaningful relationship’ down the list and makes it conditional on safety.

Other proposed amendments include: 1) the requirement for Independent Children’s Lawyers to meet directly with the children; 2) provides a definition of ‘member of the family’ that is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of family and kinship; and 3) simplification of the contravention provisions of the Act.

The Government has called for submissions on the draft legislation by 27 February 2023.

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